Since quitting med school, Adam Cavanaugh has lied about everything, and the truth is catching up with him. He knows it’s time to prove he’s someone his family can be proud of.
Temple has high standards—ones Adam will never reach. But he wants a woman like her in his life someday and is willing to let Temple teach him how to be a better man. That is, if he can keep his heart out of the equation.
Who would have guessed that her perfect life was an illusion? Or that she was falling for him too? And when Adam’s conscience compels him to tell the truth about his past, will his deceit stop Temple from trusting anyone ever again?
“Boring a hole into the back of Adam Cavanaugh’s head is not going to get him to look at you,” Temple D’Amico advised her younger sister as she dragged a crisp fry through the puddle of ketchup on her plate. “Guy’s brains’ don’t work like that, Tessa, particularly juvenile high school ones. Furthermore, a Kingsbrier is the last boy you want paying attention to you.”
The eldest of the Kingsbrier Quintuplets had walked into The Grille as if he owned the place. Of course, he was rich enough to buy whatever wanted so there was nothing shocking about his cocky attitude. His youngest sister, Daveigh, was in tow. Adam tilted his chin toward Tessa, and Daveigh’s fingers splayed in a diminutive wave.
A sudden glowing smile spreading across Tessa’s face had Temple turning in her seat to see what made her own sister giddy. Complimented by the attention, Tessa became intent on it happening again.
The poor girl. It was as plain as the nose on her face that he’d pay her no more mind.
Adam pushed Daveigh into another booth a few feet away. He hunched in the opposite seat with his back to them, immersed in conversation with her.
It was a blessing in disguise. The boy went through the local teenage female population like a kid samples sweet morsels in a candy store. There was one small exception. Adam wasn’t partial to licorice. Never once had the tall boy dated anyone with hair darker than a Bit-O-Honey. If dating was what you’d call Adam’s proclivity. He’d secured a man-whore reputation when Temple was a senior and Adam and Tessa were lowly freshman. Jet black hair aside, Tessa also didn’t have any traits putting her in the same universe as the other teen girls. It was surprising Adam acknowledged Tessa’s presence at all.
Yet, had Adam actually done anything remarkable toward Tessa? It wasn’t like Kingsbrier Numero Uno waved or said “hello”. This was the most attention the poor girl might ever get from a star football player.
“The quintuplets are bad news,” Temple continued on her diatribe. “Have you listened to what everyone’s whispering about Ginny Adair? How long do you think it’ll be before she’s on her own trying to raise that baby?”
Their mother had crossed herself and prayed when the rumors from Richardson’s Market began spreading. It was obvious the lecture on the sins of the flesh flew out the window for Tessa once a flesh and blood boy entered the picture. It was up to Temple to talk some sense into her.
Tessa scowled like a two-year-old. “Oh mio Dio, sorella! Let me have this moment. You got a boyfriend once you went to college and got away from Mama and Papa. At this rate, you’ll get married and I’ll become the crazy cat lady.”
“Stop being melodramatic,” Temple retorted, bossily.
Her sister continued laser-gazing at Adam’s mussy hair. Would it hurt him to run a brush through those curls once in a while?
Temple’s lip twitched, self-satisfied. What didn’t she have to be proud of? She’d been Valedictorian of her high school class and Dean’s List each semester since. Getting into medical school was going to be a snap. She’d shied away from young men before college, not so much by virtue of being a wallflower, but the idea of getting into a relationship and finding out she was pregnant meant she’d never live out her dreams and make her parents proud. With intention, Temple chose a young man to make her husband who understood wearing a pure-white wedding dress was important to Temple. She only hoped they served as role models for Tessa.
It was Temple’s job to ensure her sister didn’t go off the rails with the likes of Adam. Both young women had bright futures ahead of them. As far as Temple was concerned, she was well on her way to getting everything she’d ever wanted. Her staunch persistence to be the best was paying off.
“Hey, Kingsbrier!” boomed a boisterous voice. Every one of the quints responded to the name of the massive ranch they live at. Their mother was the former Miss Rose Kingsbrier and had a reputation in her youth for causing as much trouble as her five children combined.
One of Adam’s crude football cronies approached the table with a whip-thin blonde bouncing on her toes in an effort to direct attention to her low-cut top. Vanilla as the rest, she crowded Adam into the booth. Temple pegged her as a cheerleader, recognizing Adam probably didn’t give one iota if her eyes were the color of brown, blue or green M&M’s as long as she melted like chocolate. All. Over. Him. Luckily, only tonight had Tessa ever acted like she had bubble gum for brains.
Tessa picked at the bun of the best hamburger this side of Houston, mumbling something regarding the second boy, “Alcee Bennett’s known Adam near as long as Drew Newhouse.” The longing in her voice wasn’t lost, proving her sister wanted to be a part of the group. It bothered Temple to no end that Tessa picked up on nuances of the quints’ friendships.
“Give it up, Tessa.”
“You don’t know if this rumor Mama heard is true. Eric seems to love Ginny.” Tessa shrugged innocently. “Besides, you’re three years older, Temple. It’s not as if you know the quints. Daveigh is so nice. She invited me to the farewell party they’re having before Colton leaves.”
“Papa told you no.” Temple had already taken her father’s side.
“That’s so unfair! It’s almost like you have something against the Cavanaughs because of the notoriety the quints attracted when they were babies. It’s the complete opposite of the way everyone else in the county acts.”
“People in this town wouldn’t care if their grandfather hadn’t been wealthy. Those kids get away with murder. Even conceding twenty percent of the Cavanaughs are decent folk, it’s not a stellar rating. Plus, you’re comparing apples to oranges. Daveigh is a friend. You want Adam’s attention for different reasons. He looks for hearts to break. It makes me want to spit that he’s been your lab partner for the past four years.”
Tessa had developed an unrequited crush on Adam. He’d never give her the time of day and likely chose her year after year to get out of doing the assignments himself. Tessa’s GPA made her a worthwhile classmate to cheat off of.
Temple wiped her mouth and folded the napkin, setting it on her lap.
“Adam is really smart. He plans to go pre-med, like you.”
“You’ve mentioned that before, Tessa,” she said, uncaring.
He’d pay for his degree, while Temple earned hers. Being from a lower-middle class background, their good fortune was the result of studying hard and scholarship awards.
“He’s so handsome too. That dark hair and his green eyes are to die for. I can stare into them all day.”
“Adam doesn’t have the Sexiest Man Alive nomination tied up. There are other things that make a guy attractive. You know, like being a good person.” Who didn’t treat teenage girls like notches in their bedpost. How long could anyone keep that up? Would Adam still be screwing around in a decade? Then again, what did Temple know? Maybe rich people did what they wanted as long as it suited them. “Be patient. The right guy’s out there.”
“Easy for you to say.” Tessa pulled her straight, dark hair behind her shoulder glancing at the perverse diamond in her sister’s engagement ring. “You have someone.”
“Dolce,” Temple used their father’s Italian endearment with an air of condescension. “You can’t define yourself by whether you’ve caught yourself a man. Especially not at eighteen.”
“Hey, Tessa, how’s it going?” Adam interrupted, walking by their table.
“Ah, great!” she flustered. “Have you met my sister?”
Somehow the lame attempt to get him to stop worked. Adam leaned forward. His fists clasped the table edge, making the wood creak. “We haven’t been introduced.” The colossal douche ignored Temple’s presence entirely.
Not that Temple cared. She was glad to be immune from his boyish good looks and rouge charm.
The bigger issue was this brief encounter was bound to leave Tessa floating on a marshmallow cloud. It was her sisterly duty to return the teenage girl’s feet to solid ground. Where they belonged.
Tessa blushed as Adam studied her high, round cheekbones. Her rich chocolate eyes turned into round brownie bites when she noticed he’d traced her features down to where a lock of her long black hair fell against her chest.
Yup, there it was. Complete pig.
“Everyone’s coming to the stable for a bonfire tonight. You should be there.” It was as if Adam practiced the nonchalant tone to gave him leeway to never let on if he gave a hoot. Temple couldn’t help but wonder if he was more interested in how many people attended the party than who actually showed. A higher number proved his dominion over the high school crowd.
“I’m sorry. Temple and I have plans.” Tessa sounded confident while covering up her absence. It was surprising since she continually whined about how foolish she looked to her classmates with an early curfew and having to abide by a strict no-party rule.
“Temple?” The kid shook his head as if she spoke a foreign language.
“My sister.” She graciously directed his eyes across the booth.
Adam turned his gaze to the right. His eyes widened as Temple’s narrowed and he straightened his stance.
“Kingsbrier.” The name rolled off her tongue with a hint of disdain. For a boy supposedly well-bred, he had horrible manners and Temple had no desire to witness an intelligent girl fawn over anyone who didn’t deserve her. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to use the ladies room.”
Temple stood to leave. The hair on her arms prickled before she realized Adam was watching her intensely—the same way she’d chided Tessa for doing. His mere presence crowded her, and she felt the focused heat follow along as she walked towards the bathrooms. Adam’s acute gaze made Temple aware of every flaw she tried to hide. Like Tessa, her hips were a little too wide for her narrow waist. Their mother called it healthy. She said her daughters had the bodies of classic actresses like Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor. The size of Temple’s chest made her feel like she’s supposed to be a warbird pin-up girl on the nose of a B-52 with some patronizing tagline about her bust that ignored her brain.
Grasping the doorframe, Temple stopped and turned before entering the restroom to observe. The group of teenagers had followed the ringmaster and switched booths. Tessa slid to the side to make room for Alcee. She was grinning like a clown, animated while chatting to Daveigh, and eating up the attention the popular kids bestowed. Only the blonde, picking her cuticles, seemed as disinterested at the whole situation as Temple was annoyed.
Temple’s lips curled into a frown as her sister’s giggles became discernible above the noise in the crowded restaurant. The whole thing was undignified. She’d never needed shallow friendships to fill her life. Tessa shouldn’t either. Shock replaced the annoyance when Temple saw a matched expression reflected on Adam’s face as he continued leering at her. What made the golden boy look so downcast?
In the restroom, Temple had a moment of guilt. She dried her hands wiping away the feeling she should be kinder for Tessa’s sake. Her sister deserved to be happy, but that happiness didn’t need to come at the cost of having her heart broken.
It was time to finish up their meal and head home. As the bathroom door closed behind her a hand caught Temple’s shoulder. Using self-defense techniques, she slip-shrugged it off and turned to stomp on…Adam Cavanaugh’s foot?
Copyright ©2018 Jody Kaye
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a creation of the Author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, establishments, event or locales is coincidental... That's right, I made it all up!
This excerpt is taken from an uncorrected proof of the book. Mistakes are possible... In other words, I'm human too.
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